August 24, 2011 Wednesday 24 Av 5771
by Jonah Mandel
The leading haredi authorities have prohibited Jews from visiting the area that used to contain the Temples.
The movement of haredi men ascending to the Temple Mount continues to grow, with yet another small group of ultra-orthodox men recently touring the site, this time under the tutelage of Kiryat Arba’s Chief Rabbi Dov Lior.
The leading haredi authorities for both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi populations – Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – have prohibited Jews from visiting the area that used to contain the Temples, and is currently under the authority of the Jordanian Waqf, which maintains the important mosques there.
The primary reason for the rabbis' rulings is the prohibition to be in the areas in which the altar and Holy of Holies were located, without cleansing oneself from the impurity of death with the ashes of a red heifer, a specimen currently unobtainable.
But those specific parts of the Temple Mount constitute only 5-6 percent of the zone, explained Shimshon Elboim, a haredi man from Jerusalem.
Elboim was one of the 50- strong group of men and children hailing from the capital, as well as haredi cities Elad, Emmanuel and Beitar.
"There has been a revolution, primarily in the growing awareness,” he said on Monday. “If after the Six Day War in 1967 we knew nothing about the area, since the gentiles barred our access, following digs and measurements conducted on the site we can know exactly where the small off-limits area is, and keep away from it."
While in the past, the number of haredim who made the trip up to the site didn’t exceed a few dozen per year, in the past year over 200 ultra-orthodox men have already been there.
"The main reason for the fear of the rabbis is the lack of knowledge – that people will go to the prohibited areas,” said Elboim. “But as our familiarity with the terrain grows, so does the awareness amongst the public, and the permits issued by rabbis."
Elboim also took care to note that contrary to similar visits of haredim in the past, the police – who man the gate to the site – treated the Thursday group "excellently."
But while many haredi rabbis allow their followers to visit the Temple Mount, "none will issue an open call to do so," Elboim said, giving the reason as the fear from extreme anti-Zionist elements in the haredi society who fiercely object to a Jewish presence there, that they perceive as defiance to the non- Jewish elements at the site.
Such fears are not shared by rabbis from the national-religious camp, such as Lior, who encourages Jews to frequent the holy site. The haredi group had asked the Kiryat Arba rabbi to accompany them on their Thursday trip.
"The Temple Mount – of which it is written 'my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations' – is the only place in the world where Jews cannot pray," he told the Thursday group, referring to the court-consolidated police prohibition of Jews to carry out acts of worship at the site.
"That is why it is so important that Jews consistently go to the site, to maintain and fortify our grasp on it, so that the government does not relinquish it to the Muslims."